Commentary DUI: Unacceptable, period

VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. -- One American life is lost every 22 minutes in an alcohol-related traffic collision, and 50 percent of Americans will be involved in an alcohol-involved traffic collision sometime during their lifetime, according to the California Highway Patrol. 

If that doesn't scare you, it should. Drinking and driving is a problem in this country, not only for those who do it, but also for those of us who are simply trying to go about life, following the rules and doing things right. Safety is as much about you as it is about them.

In California, the law specifically states that it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle. It is also unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.

I don't understand drinking and driving. I don't understand how someone can willingly break the law. It's very simple to me, if you drink, you don't drive. If you do drink, you have a plan to get back home safely before you take the first sip.

The split second that the beer or alcoholic drink hits your lips for the first time is too late. By then, you've already put yourself in a position to make bad, irrational choices. You'll think that things will be okay even if you don't have a plan and even if you have to drive. In movies, everything seems to work out in those situations; they even try to make it funny. I can assure you though, in real life, those who plan wake up alive. Those who don't, risk killing themselves or--even worse--killing others.

There's no excuse for drinking and driving. There's no excuse for thinking you're above the law. If you do it, it's not a matter of if you'll get caught, it's when.

One DUI for any wing is too many. Drinking is dangerous business. If you choose to have a drink or two, that's your choice. It affects all of us, however, when you drink irresponsibly or, even worse, get behind the wheel.

I think you'd agree that when the lights come up in the bar and the music stops, you aren't in any position to think things through or to think about your options. You must have a plan in place well beforehand with dependable, reliable, true friends who care about you and care about being alive.

Know your limits and know your friends. Be honest with yourself and each other. When the weekend first appears on the radar, get the plan together first thing. Don't wait for the rallying point; don't wait for the ride to the bar. Come up with a plan first and make sure that your driver is up to the challenge and willing to pay the price of one weekend without any drinks.

Be one step ahead of the game all the time. You know the rules. You know how you'll feel. And you've seen enough people make the wrong choice to know what's right.

Even if things go wrong, even if the driver in your group lets you down, you still have other options. At that time of the night, you're probably tired, hungry, and restless. Through it all, remember your base command post will always answer the phone and connect you with someone who will help. You don't need to have a roster or a card in your pocket. All you need is a phone and the courage to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

Your squadron leaders or the Airman Against Drunk Driving team will drop everything to take care of you. All of us just want you back safely. Don't believe for a minute that things will be okay on their own.

Have a plan with your friends before taking the first sip. There is simply no other way to ensure your safety and the safety of everyone else. Stay safe and stay focused this weekend. I'll see you next week.